New ESA Boss, a Gamer, Plans to Flex Industry’s Political Muscle

Mike Gallagher has been something of a mystery man – until now.

With his first E3 looming, the new ESA president gives a revealing interview to Seth Schiesel of the NY Times. Most notably, Gallagher professes to being a gamer, something his predecessor, Doug Lowenstein, was most certainly not.

Gallagher spoke of getting started as a lad with Pong and progressing to more grownup fare:

In the 1990s, as chief of staff for Representative Rick White, a Washington State Republican, Mr. Gallagher helped network the office computers to play Doom, the seminal first-person shooter game.

“I was the chief of staff, so it was my prerogative to be the office champion,” he said.

Gallagher also mentioned playing Zelda with his children on the SNES:

“So it’s 1995 and I’m working on Capitol Hill,” he recounted. “My kids are 5, 3 and 1, and we did the Zelda game for the Super Nintendo, and I really saw how games could be a catalyst in the home because my 3-year-old son is sitting in the middle with the girls on both sides, and he had the manual dexterity to run the controls, but he couldn’t read yet.”

“But my 5-year-old could,” he added. “So my daughter would read the screen to my son, and my 1-year-old is sitting watching this masterful production being put on by her brother and sister.”

Of the game industry’s political troubles, Gallagher said:

I think there is a bit of a generation gap, federally, given that a number of the legislators — especially since Congress operates on the seniority system — are older. Video games came very late in their content-consuming careers, and so they’re not as familiar with the intense innovation, competition and excitement that come from video games.

Gallagher also touted Manhunt 2’s Adults Only (AO) rating as an example of the industry’s ability to self-regulate:

Mr. Gallagher defends the industry’s record on regulating and monitoring itself. He noted, for example, that the [ESRB] which operates independently from the [ESA], recently effectively banned the violent game Manhunt 2.

He also vowed that the ESA would begin to play the political contributions game:

The main challenge is connecting with decision makers and creating champions for the video-game industry in the policy-making arena. So working to set up a way for the [ESA] to participate in the federal election process is one of my top priorities. Contributing on the federal level is a very important part of our success going forward.

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